Ban on PCR tests on deceased draws flak


The government’s decision not to test people for COV- ID-19 after death even if they were suspected of having contracted the disease has drawn flak from health experts, who think it could lead to rise in infections.

The Ministry of Health and Population directed health authorities yesterday not to collect swab samples from dead bodies for conducting polymerase chain reaction test.

Former director of Epidemiology and Disease Control Division Baburam Marasini condemned the health ministry’s decision. “Near and dear ones visit the families of the deceased. If the deceased was a COVID patient, it is possible that his kin may have contracted the disease. They can then expose others to the virus when they visit their home to offer condolences,” said Marasini.

“Moreover, it is everybody’s right to know the cause of death of their family members.

The government’s decision violates that right,” argued Advocate Pankaj Kumar Karna.

Assistant Spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Population Samir Kumar Adhikari defended the ministry’s decision not to collect samples from dead bodies to conduct PCR test even if the deceased was suspected of having succumbed to COV- ID-19. He said the government’s health guidelines did not have any such provision, adding that the government’s focus was to save the lives of patients in need of treatment.

“The ministry has told health professionals to send people who come in contact with the person who is suspected to have died of COVID-19 to 14- day quarantine. It is more important to take necessary precautions than test the deceased for the disease,” Adhikari argued.

He said the government had the capacity to test up to 24,000 people per day but at present it had not tested more than 13,000 people per day. “If there is a need to test more than 13,000 people, we can do that,” he argued.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on September 18, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.